Posts for category: Gastroenterology Conditions
Find out what you can do to treat your hemorrhoids.
Seeing bright red blood when you wipe may have you panicking. However, before you rush to the hospital, you should know that chances are good that these little drops of blood are simply coming from hemorrhoids. While not dangerous, it’s important to spot the signs of hemorrhoids and know when to turn to a gastroenterologist for treatment.
Signs of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen or bulging veins of the anus. Symptoms of hemorrhoids are limited to the anal region and can result in pain, swelling, bleeding or itching. It’s also the common cause of rectal bleeding. Some hemorrhoids are internal and may cause aching or throbbing pain, particularly after a bowel movement, while others are external and may be large enough to prolapse.
Conservative Hemorrhoid Treatment Options
In most cases, hemorrhoids will go away on their own, and you won’t even need to come in for a visit. Many of the options for treating your hemorrhoids can be found in the comfort of your own home. A sitz bath can ease pain and discomfort without medication, and you can do this a couple of times a day, as needed.
Of course, if the pain is getting to you, there are over-the-counter creams that can at least temporarily take the pain and itching away until the problem resolves itself. We know it won’t cure hemorrhoids, but managing your symptoms is important.
What you wear is also essential. Wearing fabrics that aren’t breathable can exacerbate your condition. Opt for loose-fitted underwear with a breathable soft material that won’t rub or cause further irritation (yes, that means retiring those tight yoga pants, for now).
If your hemorrhoids are the result of constipation, then fiber is something you need to start incorporating into your diet. Everyone needs fiber, but if you don’t get enough, this can lead to a lot of GI problems, not to mention, it can lead to hemorrhoids. Up your fiber intake by incorporating more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables into your diet.
When to See a Gastroenterologist About Your Hemorrhoids
There comes a time when you have to throw in the towel and admit that it’s time to visit a gastroenterologist. While most cases of hemorrhoids won’t need professional care, if you have been dealing with pain for more than one week, if the rectal pain you are experiencing is severe or if symptoms are getting worse, it’s time to visit a GI specialist.
A gastroenterologist can provide a simple non-surgical rubber band system to cut off blood from the hemorrhoid and kill it. No recovery process is involved and can be performed right in your GI doctor's office. It’s certainly a relief to have a non-surgical option if you deal with persistent or severe hemorrhoids.
You should turn to a gastroenterologist immediately if you notice blood when you wipe or any other signs of hemorrhoids or dealing with intense rectal pain. After all, many conditions such as fissures and anal tears share symptoms with hemorrhoids, and a GI doctor can determine what problem you’re dealing with and how to treat it best.
Wondering if you could have GERD?
Are you living with acid reflux? If you deal with this problem rather frequently, you could have a chronic condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s more common than you know, and you could have it. Here’s what you should know about GERD,
What is GERD?
Every time you swallow food, your stomach produces acid to aid digestion. In a healthy gastrointestinal system, a valve in the esophagus opens to allow food and acid to pass from the esophagus to your gut. In those with GERD, the valve that allows food to pass through it may not close fully or open far too often, which can cause these acids to travel back up into the esophagus. If this happens regularly, the lining of the esophagus can become irritated and even damaged.
What Are the Symptoms?
While everyone will probably experience heartburn at some point, you will likely deal with chronic or persistent heartburn if you have GERD. Everybody is different when it comes to their symptoms. Besides heartburn and acid reflux, which are the two main symptoms of GERD, other symptoms include,
- Sore throat
- Problems swallowing
- Gum inflammation
- Throat irritation
- Chronic bad breath
- A bitter taste in the mouth
When Should I See a Gastroenterologist?
It isn’t always easy to know when to visit a gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Of course, if you’ve been dealing with heartburn that occurs twice or more during the week, if your heartburn is only getting worse, if you have trouble swallowing or if heartburn wakes you up at night, then it’s essential that you get your symptoms checked out.
How is GERD Treated?
The goal of treatment is to reduce and even eliminate your symptoms while also helping give the esophagus a chance to heal itself. There will be specific lifestyle changes you will need to make to improve your symptoms, such as,
- Avoiding or limiting spicy, fatty, fried and acidic foods
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol
- Losing weight if obesity or being overweight is a factor
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals
- Not eating about two to three hours before bed
- Not lying down immediately after eating
- Avoiding shirts or belts that are too tight or put too much pressure around the middle
Certain medications will also be prescribed to help you manage your symptoms better and to help repair the damage done to the esophagus. Surgery may be recommended if you’ve tried all other non-surgical options, but nothing has managed your GERD.
Don’t ignore your acid reflux, especially if you’re dealing with it twice a week. If so, you owe it to yourself to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to find out if you could be dealing with GERD.
Is your body telling you that you could have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Are you just experiencing symptoms of an upset stomach, or is there something more going on? It can sometimes be hard to tell, and some people find it embarrassing to talk about, but if you want to find out if your symptoms could be due to IBS, it’s time you turn to a gastroenterologist for care.
What is IBS?
While there is so much about IBS that is still unknown, there are several theories about what causes these symptoms. People with IBS may,
- Have more sensitive colons
- Have a different immune system response
- Experience hormonal fluctuations or changes that trigger IBS
- Produce serotonin that affects digestive tract nerves, causing diarrhea or constipation
While we may not know what causes IBS, we know that it is a true medical condition.
What are the symptoms associated with IBS?
To diagnose someone with IBS, an individual must experience ongoing symptoms for at least six months. One of the most common symptoms of IBS is abdominal pain. Of course, to be able to diagnose your symptoms as IBS, the abdominal pain has to have at least two out of these three factors:
- Passing stool relieves symptoms
- Your symptoms affect the frequency of passing stool
- Your symptoms affect the appearance of stool
There are quite a few things that can cause IBS to flare up. Common foods that cause flare-ups include high-fiber foods, chocolate, alcohol, fructose and caffeine.
How does a gastroenterologist treat IBS?
There are several different kinds of medications that we might recommend, including antispasmodic, antidiarrheal and even antidepressants.
We will also discuss the many lifestyle changes you should adopt to reduce flare-ups. Common lifestyle changes include,
- Maintaining regular exercise to improve the function of the bowels
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding trigger foods
- Reducing or limiting alcohol consumption
- Finding ways to manage stress (e.g., mindfulness; yoga; meditation)
If you are dealing with persistent abdominal pain and bowel changes, it’s important that you find out what’s going on to get the answers and treatments you need to improve your digestive health.
Learn more about acid reflux, its signs and triggers, and when to see a doctor.
Acid reflux happens to everyone, but what should you do if this becomes a common occurrence? You may be wondering what in your diet is triggering acid reflux, and you may want to sit down with a gastroenterologist who can help you figure out why you’re experiencing frequent bouts of acid reflux. It’s important that you don’t just ignore this problem.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach travels back up through the esophagus. While the esophageal sphincter is supposed to prevent food from traveling backward if the sphincter doesn’t function properly, acid reflux often occurs. As a result, acid reflux often causes heartburn and burning in your chest and throat. While acid reflux and heartburn are often used interchangeably, acid reflux and heartburn are different.
What triggers acid reflux?
The most common acid reflux triggers include,
- Eating a heavy meal, especially right before bed
- Alcohol consumption
- Spicy, fatty, and acidic foods
- Certain medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers
Why acid reflux is a cause for concern?
While acid reflux on its own isn’t usually anything concerning, if you are experiencing acid reflux at least two or more times a week, it’s important that you seek care from a qualified gastroenterologist. Frequent or recurring acid reflux can signify gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If left untreated or improperly treated, this chronic condition can lead to severe complications, including esophageal cancer and swallowing disorders.
Over-the-counter antacids aren’t enough; you’ll need to turn to a gastroenterologist who can prescribe the proper medication or procedure to correct weak or damaged sphincter muscles.
How is acid reflux managed?
Lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods and eating smaller meals can undoubtedly go a long way to improving symptoms. Patients who are overweight or obese will also find that symptoms improve by losing some weight. Your gastroenterologist may recommend a lower-acid diet while also prescribing an acid blocker. Surgery to repair the sphincter muscle may be advised in more severe cases.
Is acid reflux impacting your diet and affecting your quality of life? If you love eating out or cooking, you may find that acid reflux is cramping your style. This is a sign that you could benefit from turning to a gastroenterologist.
Wondering why you're dealing with abdominal pain?
Everyone deals with a stomachache from time to time. Typically, it will go away on its own, and it’s nothing to worry about; however, certain symptoms may warrant having a gastroenterologist take a closer look. Here’s what you should know about abdominal pain.
What causes abdominal pain?
There is a laundry list of conditions, infections, and diseases that can cause sharp, aching, stabbing, or cramping pain in the abdomen. Some causes are minor and will go away on their own, while others will require urgent medical attention. Common causes include,
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies (different than a food intolerance)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroenteritis (referred to as a “stomach bug”)
For women, abdominal pain might not have anything to do with the digestive tract and may be due to menstruation, ovarian polyps or cysts, or other reproductive issues.
If your abdominal pain is minor and goes away in a couple of hours, it’s probably not something to worry about; however, severe abdominal pain is nothing to ignore. Severe abdominal pain, as well as worsening or persistent abdominal pain could be due to,
- Irritable bowel diseases (e.g., Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
- Stomach ulcers
- Gallstones or kidney stones
When should I see a gastroenterologist?
It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist if you are experiencing,
- Constant abdominal pain that lasts days
- Pain that keeps coming back
- Other symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation that also doesn’t go away after a few days
- Changes in bowel movements or urinary/bladder function
- Unexpected and sudden weight loss
If you are dealing with severe abdominal pain or abdominal pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, pain in the chest, or bloody stools, you must seek immediate medical attention.
What is your gut trying to tell you? If you are dealing with persistent abdominal pain or stomach pains that concern you, then these are reasons to turn to a gastroenterologist.
What is a gallbladder attack?
A gallbladder attack is often what happens when there is a gallstone blockage in the duct of the gallbladder. Symptoms can last where from a few minutes to a few hours, but it’s important to seek immediate medical attention if you are dealing with severe abdominal pain. The attack may go away on its own without any complications, but it’s still important that you schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to make sure that your symptoms are due to a gallbladder attack and to rule out other potential health problems.
What are the signs and symptoms of a gallbladder attack?
Wondering if you could be dealing with a gallbladder attack? You could be if you are experiencing:
- A dull, sharp, or cramping pain in the upper right side or center of the abdomen
- Pain that radiates to the back or shoulder blades
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (also known as jaundice)
As with most health problems, certain risk factors could increase your chances of developing gallstones. You may be more likely to experience gallstones during your lifetime if:
- You have a family history of gallstones or gallbladder problems
- You are obese or overweight
- You have a low-fiber, high-cholesterol diet
- You take certain medications such as birth control or hormone replacement therapy
- You have diabetes
- You are pregnant
- You are over 40 years old
- You have been diagnosed with liver disease
If the gallstone is passed on its own without problems then no treatment is necessary; however, sometimes medications or shockwaves are used to break up the gallstones. If you are dealing with recurring gallbladder pain, your gastroenterologist may recommend having your gallbladder removed.
If you are dealing with severe or sudden abdominal pain it’s important to seek immediate medical attention, as a gallbladder attack isn’t the only thing that can lead to sudden stomach pain. If you find yourself dealing with frequent gallbladder issues you may wish to speak with a gastroenterologist about whether to have the organ removed.
Causes of Diarrhea
The most common cause of diarrhea is a viral infection that impacts the stomach. Some people call it “stomach flu” even though it’s not caused by influenza. Other causes of diarrhea include,
- Food allergies
- Alcohol use
- Intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease
- Bacterial infections
- Overactive thyroid
- Running (known as “runner’s diarrhea”)
If you are dealing with loose stools for more than four weeks, then you are dealing with chronic diarrhea. Often, this is caused by an intestinal disorder such as colitis, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you are dealing with chronic diarrhea you should see a gastroenterologist to find out what’s going on.
When to See a Doctor
Since diarrhea can also lead to dehydration it’s important that you seek medical attention if you are also experiencing symptoms of dehydration. You should also call your gastroenterologist right away if you experience,
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Black stools
- Diarrhea that lasts more than two days
- A high fever (over 102 F) that last more than one day
- Severe abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
A gastroenterologist will need to figure out what’s causing your diarrhea before providing you with treatment options. Mild diarrhea may be treated with over-the-counter options and making sure the patient stays hydrated. A gastroenterologist may need to perform stool sample testing or a colonoscopy to detect certain conditions such as intestinal disorders. Once a diagnosis has been made, your GI doctor can provide you with the proper lifestyle changes along with medications and other options.
While diarrhea is often not a cause for concern if you do find yourself feeling concerned it’s always best to play it safe and call your gastroenterologist to find out whether you could benefit from a proper medical evaluation.
What are colon polyps?
A polyp is typically a benign growth that develops in the lining of the rectum or colon. They can vary in size and are often found in the colon. Polyps are very common in adults, particularly older adults. In fact, an average 60-year-old who doesn’t have any risk factors still has a 25 percent chance of developing polyps. While some polyps can be cancerous, most are harmless.
What can increase my risk for colon polyps?
Older age is the most common risk factor for polyps. If there is a history of colon polyps or colon cancer in your family then you may also be more likely to develop polyps. Other risk factors include,
- Being obese or overweight
- Having diabetes
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- Having inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
Most polyps do not cause any symptoms; however, if the polyp is large enough it could cause blood in the stool or rectal bleeding. Sometimes a sigmoidoscopy, which allows our GI doctor to look at the lower section of the colon, can detect the presence of a polyp. In this case, our doctor will then recommend a colonoscopy to have the polyp removed. While there are other screening tools available for detecting polyps, the most accurate tool is a colonoscopy.
How is a polyp removed?
If we find polyps during your colonoscopy we can easily remove them at the same time as your procedure. There are several ways in which your doctor can remove a polyp. The most common method is a wire loop biopsy or through a polyp resection (burning the polyp with an electrical current). Since the lining of the bowels is not sensitive, these methods will not cause discomfort. Sometimes a laboratory will examine the removed polyp to look for cancerous cells.
If you need to schedule a routine colonoscopy, or you have a family history of colon polyps and you’re concerned, call your gastroenterologist today to learn more about the preventive steps you can start taking today to protect your digestive health.
What causes a hiatal hernia?
Any kind of intense or increased pressure in this area of the abdomen can lead to a hiatal hernia. Pressure in this area of the digestive tract can occur as a result of,
- Heavy lifting or intense physical exertion
You could have a hiatal hernia and not even know it. Most people don’t even realize that they have one; however, others may deal with certain digestive issues such as,
- Regurgitation of food
- Stomach discomfort
Does a hiatal hernia require treatment?
If your hiatal hernia isn’t causing you any issues then you may never need to have it treated; however, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you’ll want to see your gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to get your symptoms under control. These changes include,
- Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if overweight or obese)
- Eating smaller portions
- Avoiding belts or tight pants that put pressure around the middle
- Avoiding acidic, spicy, fatty, greasy, and fried foods
- Avoiding carbonated beverages as well as caffeine and alcohol
- Not eating 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Quitting smoking
- Elevating your head while you sleep
- Not lying down immediately after eating
A gastroenterologist is the ideal medical specialist to turn to when heartburn, regurgitation, acid reflux, and other digestive issues plague you. If a hiatal hernia is a culprit, we can help you find effective solutions to manage your symptoms.
Do I have lactose intolerance?
Since many things can cause an upset stomach and GI distress, it can be difficult to know whether or not it’s dairy that’s truly the culprit. Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms about 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy products, then it’s time to speak with one of our doctors to find out if it could be lactose intolerance. Here are some of the symptoms you might experience after ingesting dairy products:
- Belly and stomach cramps
- Abdominal pain
If you suspect that you might be lactose intolerant, it’s a good idea to start tracking everything from whether you consumed milk or other dairy products beforehand and what symptoms you are experiencing to what medications or vitamins you are currently taking.
Our gastroenterologists can determine whether or not you have lactose intolerance through these simple tests:
Lactose tolerance test: This is the most commonly used diagnostic test, which requires the patient to consume a liquid containing a high concentration of lactose. Once consumed, we will perform blood tests to see how glucose within the body reacts to lactose. If glucose levels stay the same rather than rising then your body isn’t able to digest lactose properly.
Hydrogen breath test: Another test in which you have to consume a lactose-filled drink, the hydrogen breath test uses your breath rather than your blood to check hydrogen levels. Bodies that don’t digest lactose properly will affect the colon, which in turn will produce hydrogen and other gases that go through the gastrointestinal system and out through your breath. By measuring the amount of hydrogen on your breath we can also determine whether you might be lactose intolerant.
Stool acidity test: This is most commonly used in infants and young children who may be lactose intolerant. If lactose isn’t digested properly it will create lactic acid within the stool, which can then be tested and detected.
How is lactose intolerance treated?
Avoiding lactose is often the simplest way to prevent symptom flare-ups. These days, there are a ton of lactose-free and dairy-free milk, cheeses, and ice creams, so you shouldn’t have to necessarily cut foods you love from your diet; however, there are over-the-counter supplements that you can take beforehand that can help you better digest dairy if you do decide to eat out or treat yourself to some ice cream.
If you are dealing with digestive issues that you think could be caused by dairy, then it’s a good idea to turn to a gastroenterologist who can perform the appropriate diagnostic testing to determine what’s causing your issues.
What is fecal incontinence?
Whenever there is trouble controlling the bowels this is often known as fecal or anal incontinence. Fecal incontinence can appear as stool leakage when passing gas or during physical activity. You may feel as if you can’t control your bowel movement or you may feel like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom in time. You may even see stool in your underwear. In more severe instances, a person may experience a total loss of bowel control.
Why does fecal incontinence occur?
There are several reasons why someone might deal with this problem. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Damage to the muscles of the anus (common after childbirth)
- Previous anal surgeries
- Nervous system injury or disorder
- Severe constipation (more common in the elderly)
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rectal prolapse
How is fecal incontinence treated?
A lot will depend on the underlying cause. For example, finding ways to better manage your inflammatory bowel disease can greatly improve bowel incontinence. There are certain exercises and therapies that your doctor may recommend such as Kegel exercises or biofeedback if you are dealing with damaged or weakened anal muscles. Patients whose bowel incontinence is due to diarrhea or constipation may be given certain medications such as anti-diarrheal medications or laxatives to improve their bowels. For certain structural issues such as rectal prolapse, your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery to repair the damage.
Since bowel incontinence is a sign of an underlying health problem, it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist as soon as possible to find out what’s causing your incontinence, as well as the best way to treat it.
What causes a perianal abscess?
Just like bacteria and debris that gets trapped under the skin results in a pimple, trapped bacteria in the glands around the anal canal can continue to build up until it develops a boil-like bump near the rectum. This is most common in male infants under one year old. A perianal abscess is not to be confused with a perirectal abscess, which is a deep pelvic infection that can be the result of inflammatory bowel disease.
How is a perianal abscess diagnosed?
It’s fairly easy for a gastroenterologist to diagnose a perianal abscess. All that’s needed is a simple physical examination of the area. Since the infection can spread, it’s important to seek treatment from a medical expert to prevent this from happening.
In some cases, the abscess may be treated with simple home care such as Sitz baths and warm soaks a couple of times a day to help the abscess naturally drain on its own. If this happens further treatment may not be necessary; however, if the infection has spread, your gastroenterologist may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. If the abscess doesn’t drain on its own, your doctor can safely drain the abscess. Do not pop or try to drain the abscess yourself, as this could spread the infection. Since this problem can return, it’s important to keep the area clean to prevent future infections.
If you notice a large, painful lump around the rectum or anus, it’s natural to be concerned. Fortunately, a gastroenterologist is going to be the medical specialist you’ll want to turn to for answers and treatment.
Be Smart About How You Lose Weight
Being obese is also a risk factor for gallstones. So, if you are overweight or obese you must eat a healthy diet and incorporate exercise into your routine to help shed weight safely but effectively. We understand that it isn’t always easy to lose weight but talking to a doctor can provide you with effective ways to start.
Of course, while it’s true that losing excess weight can go a long way to keeping you healthy, it’s also equally important that you find ways to safely and gradually lose weight. Anyone who sheds weight rapidly either through a crash diet or surgery is more likely to deal with gallstones. The safest way to lose weight is to aim to lose about 1-2 pounds per week over several months.
Eat a Healthy Diet
We all know the role that diet plays in your health. So it should come as no surprise that the foods you eat could also impact your gallbladder. Following a plant-based diet that is high in fiber and healthy fats and lower in refined carbs and red meat is a great way to reduce your risk for gallstones.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise, just like what you eat, is also just as important for your overall health. Did you know that simply by getting regular exercise several times a week for at least 150 minutes a week, you can reduce the chances of gallstones? Add this to the list of reasons why you might want to go on a long, brisk walk today or (finally) take that spin class.
If you do find yourself dealing with gallstones, a gastroenterologist is going to be the best specialist to turn to for immediate care and treatment options. If you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones, call your GI doctor today.
Symptoms will vary depending on whether you are dealing with acute or chronic pancreatitis. If you are dealing with acute pancreatitis you are likely to experience,
- Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back
- Pain that gets worse after eating (especially when consuming a high-fat diet)
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Swollen abdomen
- Increased or rapid heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
There are many reasons people may develop pancreatitis. Certain risk factors include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Abdominal injury
- Exposure to environmental toxins
- Undergoing abdominal surgery
- Family history of pancreatitis
- High cholesterol (particularly high triglycerides)
- High calcium levels (hypercalcemia)
How your gastroenterologist decides to treat your pancreatitis will depend on the severity and type of pancreatitis you are dealing with. Mild or acute forms of pancreatitis may be improved through simple dietary changes (a low-fat diet) or antibiotics and pain medications.
For severe or chronic cases of pancreatitis, patients may need to be hospitalized where they will need to undergo fasting until the inflammation goes away. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove the gallbladder if gallstones are the cause of your inflammation. Surgery can also remove diseased regions of the pancreas.
- Increased flatulence
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Profuse and sudden sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw pain (this is more common in women)
- Intense pressure on your chest (some people liken it to “an elephant sitting on their chest”)
- Pain that radiates from the chest to the neck, back, arms, or shoulders
- Sudden decrease or increase in heart rate
- Food intolerance or allergy
- A very high-fiber diet
- Carbonated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food poisoning
While this progressive condition does affect the liver it is actually an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system is attacking the bile ducts. When the bile ducts are damaged or destroyed, this leads to inflammation and scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver.
As with most conditions, symptoms aren’t typically apparent during the earlier stages. As the condition progresses, a woman may start to notice symptoms. This is a slow disease, sometimes taking as long as 20 years for symptoms to appear.
- Skin darkening
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle and joint pain
- Weight loss
- High cholesterol
- Yellowing of the skin
- Swelling of the legs and feet
- Swelling of the abdomen
While PBC is not curable, your gastroenterologist can provide you treatment that can help slow the progression of the disease. One of the standard treatments is ursodeoxycholic acid, which helps the bile to flow from the liver to the intestines. Other medications are also prescribed to improve liver function.
- A burning or gnawing in your chest and throat that occurs after eating (particularly greasy, acidic, or spicy foods)
- Discomfort gets worse when lying down, especially after eating
- An acidic taste in the back of your throat
- Taking pain relievers regularly
- Being pregnant
- Eating larger meals or eating close to bedtime
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Being overweight
- High stress
- Hiatal hernia
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
If heartburn becomes a regular occurrence it’s important to see a gastroenterologist, as this could be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can lead to more serious complications if left untreated. Instead of using antacids, which aren’t meant to be used regularly or for long periods of time, your doctor will prescribe an acid blocker or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).
Hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver. A viral infection is typically to blame for most types of hepatitis; however, autoimmune problems or heavy alcohol use can also lead to hepatitis.
- Hepatitis A is acute
- Hepatitis B, C, and D are often persistent and chronic
- Hepatitis E is typically acute
Hepatitis is contracted in several ways including,
- Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated water or food
- Hepatitis B is often transmitted through bodily fluids including blood and semen
- Hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact, coming in contact with infected bodily fluids, or through IV drug use
- Hepatitis D is transmitted through contact with infected blood (typically occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B)
- Hepatitis E is transmitted through contaminated water
As many as half of people with hepatitis don’t even know that they have it. Some of the signs and symptoms include,
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Dark urine
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Pale-colored stools
Again, the type of hepatitis you have will determine how to best treat it. Acute viral forms of hepatitis such as hepatitis A will go away on their own, so treatment options may be geared toward easing your symptoms and making sure that you get enough rest. Those with more chronic forms will need ongoing management and treatment from a gastroenterologist. Your GI doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to prevent or at least slow liver damage for those with chronic hepatitis such as hepatitis B. Some patients may even require surgery.
Some women with rectocele don’t even know that they have it until their OBGYN discovers it during a routine wellness exam; however, if the bulging tissue is rather large then symptoms may appear. Signs of rectocele include,
- Trouble with completing full bowel movements
- Needing to apply pressure to the vagina or the rectovaginal septum to complete a bowel movement
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Frequent urges to have a bowel movement throughout the day
- Rectal pain
If you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, then your gastroenterologist may not recommend treatment since your daily routine isn’t being impacted; however, if you are experiencing symptoms, the first course of action will be to improve bowel movements and to make them easier and less uncomfortable. Nonsurgical treatment options are usually enough to resolve any issues associated with a rectocele.
- Staying hydrated
- Eating a high-fiber diet
- Performing pelvic floor exercises
- Biofeedback to improve pelvic floor muscle function
- Using stool softeners
What are the signs and symptoms of a fistula?
The most common symptoms are pain, swelling, and redness around the anus. Of course, everything from a tear in the tissue to hemorrhoids can also cause similar symptoms, so it’s not always easy to spot the difference. This is why you should always consult a gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis.
If you have a fistula, you may also notice these symptoms,
- Pain with bowel movements (and sometimes urination)
- Liquid draining from the anus
How is an anal fissure diagnosed?
Some anal fissures can be spotted through a simple rectal exam; however, this isn’t always the case. If so, your gastroenterologist may recommend imaging tests such as a CT scan or a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of the rectum and colon to spot bleeds, ulcers, and other problems.
How are fistulas treated?
The only way to treat a fistula is with surgery, which is typically performed in your gastroenterologist’s office. Several surgical strategies can be used, depending on whether you have a simple or more complicated fistula. Simple fistulas can be removed through excision, while complicated fistulas may require a tube to drain the fluid for several weeks. This is something that your doctor will talk with you about once you’ve come in for an evaluation.
Whether you are experiencing symptoms of a fistula or you are noticing changes in bowel habits that have you concerned, a gastroenterologist is an ideal doctor to turn to for answers. Call your gastroenterologist today to discuss your symptoms and find out if you should come into the office for care.
What are the signs of gallstones?
Some people have gallstones but don’t even know it; however, the most common symptoms associated with gallstones are indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. If you have a gallbladder attack, you may experience pain in the upper right or middle of your abdomen below the rib cage. This pain can last for several hours and may be severe.
What are some risk factors for gallstones?
While we still don’t know the exact cause of gallstones, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of dealing with gallstones at some point during your lifetime. Apart from being a woman, here are some other risk factors,
- Being over age 40
- Being obese
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
- A poor diet that is high in fat
- Being diabetic
- Being pregnant
- High cholesterol
- Family history of gallstones
While we can’t guarantee that you’ll never have gallstones again, making certain lifestyle changes have proven effective for reducing or getting rid of a gallbladder attack. Talk with your gastroenterologist about ways to improve your lifestyle (e.g. losing excess weight; eating a healthier diet; avoiding alcohol) to lower your risk for gallstones.
If you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, then you probably won’t require treatment; however, if you continue to have gallbladder attacks you may want to talk with your gastroenterologist about having your gallbladder removed. Your gallbladder can be removed without it affecting your health or quality of life.
If you would like to avoid surgery your gastroenterologist may recommend a certain medication that can help to break up these stones. This medication can also prevent new gallstones from forming. Sometimes this medication is used along with a soundwave procedure known as lithotripsy, which helps to breakdown gallstones so that they can pass more easily.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gallstones or signs of a dysfunctional gallbladder, you must have a gastroenterologist that you can turn to for immediate care. A gastroenterologist will easily be able to determine what’s causing your digestive issues and provide you with an effective solution.
- Passing hard stools or straining during a bowel movement
- Persistent or recurring diarrhea
- Anal intercourse
- Crohn’s disease
You may be dealing with an anal fissure if you notice pain with a bowel movement. The pain can be quite sharp and intense, and you may even experience burning or pain for hours after. Other symptoms include anal itching and drops of blood when wiping (typically bright red blood). If you notice black or dark stools, this is a sign of internal bleeding and it’s important to see a gastroenterologist right away.
Most fissures will heal on their own with proper care. There are things you can do to help promote healing. These include,
- Staying hydrated and drinking lots of fluids
- Getting daily exercise
- Consuming a high-fiber diet
- Avoiding straining with a bowel moment
- Go to the bathroom when you need to (do not hold it in)
- Relax in a Sitz bath
- Use baby wipes rather than toilet paper (which may be too dry and rough) after a bowel movement
- Sometimes, stool softeners and fiber supplements can be helpful
What are the signs of a C. diff infection?
Again, it is possible to have this infection and not have symptoms; however, some people with C. diff experience:
- Stomach cramping or pain
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
What are the risk factors for C. diff?
Certain factors can increase your risk for C. diff. While anyone can develop this infection it’s more common in those over 65 years old, those with weakened immune systems, patients with intestinal diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease), and those who work in hospital settings. If you’ve had C. diff in the past, you’re also more likely to get it again.
How is C. diff contracted?
This infection can spread from person to person or from touching contaminated surfaces or objects. This is why it’s important to properly sanitize all surfaces both at home and at work. Also, practice good hygiene and wash clothes in hot water.
How is C. diff treated?
Antibiotics are the standard way to treat a C. diff infection; however, in more severe cases (when people are experiencing complications such as organ failure) surgery may be necessary to remove parts of the colon. Since this type of infection can come back, you must talk to your gastroenterologist about ways to prevent another infection in the future.
If you are dealing with chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, or other digestive problems, you must see a gastroenterologist who can figure out what’s going on and provide you with the treatment you need to feel better quickly.
- A dull, aching, or burning sensation in the center of your stomach that may feel worse when empty and may be alleviated by eating or drinking
- Feeling full easily
- Lack of appetite
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Dark stools
How are stomach ulcers diagnosed?
Since the problem lies within the body, we will need to be able to conduct certain tests that will help our gastroenterologists examine the stomach to find out what’s going on. To do that, your GI doctor may recommend an endoscopy.
During an endoscopy, a thin tube is inserted into the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach to examine the lining of the stomach to look for bleeds, ulcers, and other problems within the tissue that could be causing your symptoms.
How are stomach ulcers treated?
If your endoscopy comes back positive for stomach ulcers your gastroenterologist is most likely to prescribe antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a medication that blocks the stomach from producing acid (this gives the ulcers time to heal). Some patients experience almost immediate relief, but it’s important to continue taking your medication even once you start feeling better.
Your gastroenterologist may already recommend certain dietary changes that include removing foods that could exacerbate symptoms while incorporating healthy food choices such as broccoli, leafy greens, and olive oil, that could improve stomach ulcer symptoms.
Very rarely do stomach ulcers require surgery, but your gastroenterologist may recommend surgery for stomach ulcers that keep returning, don’t heal with non-surgical treatment, bleed, or cause other complications.
Persistent stomach pain and gastrointestinal distress should be properly evaluated by a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating infections and conditions that affect the digestive tract. If you are concerned that you might have a stomach ulcer contact your gastroenterologist today.
What Causes Abdominal Pain
All you have to do is perform a quick Google search and you’ll realize that there are tons of infections, disorders, diseases and even injuries that can lead to stomach pain and discomfort. Since it can be difficult to figure out what’s causing persistent or recurring abdominal pain, this is where a gastroenterologist can help shed some light. Common causes of abdominal pain include,
- Gastroenteritis (intestinal infection)
- Menstrual cramps
- Food allergies
- Food poisoning
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Appendicitis (sudden, sharp pain on the right side; requires immediate medical attention)
Since certain conditions such as Celiac disease or colon polyps can only be properly diagnosed through specific testing (e.g. endoscopy; colonoscopy) it’s important that you seek proper medical attention if your abdominal pain lasts for days or keeps returning.
When should I see a doctor?
It’s important to recognize when abdominal pain requires immediate or professional treatment. You should seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, or if your abdominal pain is accompanied by fever, vomiting, a lack of bowel movements, yellowing skin or dehydration. While not considered an emergency, you should still call our office if your stomach is tender to the touch or if you experience abdominal pain that lasts hours.
If you find yourself dealing with recurring or regular bouts of abdominal pain, a gastroenterologist can help you find answers you’re looking for.
- Sudden, severe, and sharp abdominal pain (typically in the upper right side of the body)
- Pain that appears after eating and lasts several hours
- Light-colored stools
- Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice)
Am I at risk for gallstones?
Many factors can increase your risk of developing gallstones such as:
- Family history of gallstones and gallbladder disease
- Being over 60 years old
- Being a woman
- Being overweight or obese
- Taking estrogen or hormone medications
- Eating a diet that is low in fiber and high in cholesterol or fat
- Being pregnant
It is possible to have gallstones and never experience symptoms. In this case, you probably won’t require treatment unless there is the possibility of a complication. Sometimes medications are prescribed that can help to break up the gallstones. It may be time to consider having surgery to remove your gallbladder if:
- You’re dealing with severe cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
- There is an infection
- The gallbladder doesn’t work or has stopped working
- The gallbladder is causing significant pain and other problems
- There is a tumor on the gallbladder
While people can develop celiac disease at any age, it’s often hereditary (meaning that if you have a family member with this condition then you are more likely to develop the celiac disease yourself). Since this disease can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, anemia, and type 1 diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you might have celiac disease.
The most common symptoms of Celiac disease involve digestive problems and may include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or pale stools (more common in children)
- An itchy, widespread rash
- Ulcers of the mouth
- Joint pain
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
Treating Celiac Disease